NBA Sources Dish on Ben Simmons Turmoil, Steve Nash’s Future in Brooklyn 2022-04-26 08:27:42


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The Nets entered this regular season as the favorite to win the NBA title. On Tuesday morning, Brooklyn woke up with the only team out in the first round.

The Nets’ slate of dropping four games in a row against Boston was a far cry from the juggernaut that general manager Sean Marks had put together to enter training camp. Kyrie Irving lost his ability to play a large part of the 2021-22 campaign by choosing not to comply with the New York City Vaccine Act. Irving’s condition was one of many factors that influenced James Harden to request a deal from the franchise in February. The Nets numbers were also quick to point to the heavy loss of groundbreaker Joe Harris, who played just 14 games due to an ankle injury.

Ben Simmons’ absence this season has sparked more than bright lights. Before the Celtics series kicks off on Easter Sunday, league sources told B/R that the 25-year-old All-Star and Nets personnel were confident he was on track to play early in Game 3. Then it became his schedule. The alleged timeline is Game 4. That’s until Sunday, when Simmons reported to the Brooklyn crew that he was suffering from a backache, a day before Monday’s fateful fourth game defeat.

In theory, Simmons could have woken up Monday morning and determined his back was good enough to play. The sources said that there were many people close to him encouraging him to regain the ground, even within limited minutes, to establish a deeper relationship with his teammates before next season. By all accounts, his ailing back isn’t 100 percent healthy, but few NBA players at this point in the playoffs are free from any form of nagging pain. Even his acting members and other close contacts advised Simmons to at least sit on the bench in Brooklyn in uniforms and a warm-up team instead of the flashy outfits that have become a sight.

Instead, Nets excluded Simmons from Game 4 altogether, sources said, as fatigue and general disappointment seemed to permeate the franchise. After visiting the pre-match floor prior to Match 3, Simmons was not involved in any pre-match action on Monday and was not present on the bench alongside his Game 4 teammates, which one source said was B/R due to his long back. Discomfort. Simmons certainly wouldn’t have appeared on the road in front of a Boston audience hostile to Game 5. Could he have made an appearance in Game 6? We will never know.

But despite all the increased interest and legitimate thinking in the back issues that have plagued Simmons for several seasons, it’s quite clear that the mental aspect of Simmons’ return to the game is the biggest hurdle standing between him and the NBA court.

Throughout the turbulent season, Simmons has changed his interpretations of sitting outside — vitriol from the Philadelphia fan base, comments by Doc Rivers for Post-Game 7, who wants to be the centerpiece of his team, backache — but has consistently refused at any moment to join in on the word.

Sixers officials made repeated efforts to welcome Simmons back to their show, and it was clear to members of Simmons’ representation that returning to court would have boosted his business value, and thus the likelihood of his desire for a business deal. But Simmons was still fighting back, sources told B/R, and looked ready to sit out the rest of the season if Philadelphia didn’t move him before the deadline.

Similar patterns of non-competitive behavior date back to Simmons’ collegiate days at LSU, when draft evaluators wondered if he was a better bet than Brandon Ingram for the first pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Simmons’ current state, a distinct mental block of certain abilities, A topic of discussion in graduate-level sports psychology classes across the country.

Any front desk ejected from the first round, especially for a team that failed to win one game, must take into account overall changes. Of course, there is already league speculation about whether Brooklyn will enjoy trading Simmons this summer. But if teams are retreating from Philadelphia to get Simmons, viewing him as a faltering asset, it’s hard to fathom any interested suitor offering Brooklyn the same packages after their post-season disaster.

Minnesota were considered the most aggressive team in pursuit of Simmons, but the Timberwolves have since succeeded in raising Anthony Edwards with more chances on the ball. Sacramento constantly invited Simmons, only to focus on acquiring Domantas Sabonis from Indiana. Would the Cavaliers still have to put up with the addition of Simmons after dealing with Caris Levert and climbing to the top of the Eastern Conference before injuries pared a breakout year for the franchise?

“Brooklyn has to play it up a little bit,” one GM told B/R. “You really don’t have a choice.” “I just don’t think [Simmons] It has no real commercial value. He was not responsible for two franchises. He did not play a full season due to a back injury. How do you make a deal with the chance he reports and then say he can’t play because of the linebacker again? “

How Simmons deals with this offseason will tell us: if he stays in Brooklyn at the team’s sprawling Industry City training facility, rehabs his back and works on the field with the Nets staff, or if he spends summers away from the franchise enjoying the celebrity vacation mentality, as he was inclined to do done during his tenure in Philadelphia. It is clear which scenario the networks would prefer.

When you’re healthy, your Durant-Irving-Simmons triple cap will still be very high. Last year’s runner-up to the best defensive player should provide much-needed reinforcements on this side of the ball. The Nets staff further envisioned extra playmaker Simmons could provide in both the transition and half-court, either easing on the ball or turning into a devastating ball-and-dribbling partner for Durant and Irving, like super-passing Bruce Brown. Boston’s defensive scheme halted Brooklyn’s once high-octane attack, and the Nets struggled to get into the halfway before most of their shooting hours were already gone.

Sophomore coach Steve Nash took the brunt of criticism for Brooklyn’s failure to free Durant for his easy-going appearance. Questions have already been circulating throughout the league about the two-time MVP staying on the Brooklyn bench. But Nash has a deep relationship with Durant and was sealed by the Nets just two seasons ago. Marks consults Durant on every major decision within his Brooklyn basketball operations. There was no indication that Durant’s opinion of Nash had changed, and he was concerned first when asked about his faith in the coach on Monday night.

“Yeah, Steve has been treated like a crazy person for the past two years,” Durant said. “He had to deal with a lot of things as a coach for the first time: trade, injuries, COVID, just a lot of things he had to deal with. I’m proud of how – his focus and passion for us. We are all [will] Keep evolving over the summer and see what happens.”

Thus, there is little expectation that Nash’s job is really in jeopardy on the Brooklyn side of the equation. The event that could lead to a change in the Nets coach could be Nash’s decision to walk away from the situation himself. Speculation about this possibility is also starting to swirl in league circles, even within the Nets facilities. The former medalist doesn’t need the dramatic trappings of a superior team and all the time away from the family that training requires. Nash had to sing the general tone of the franchise during every media availability, until he claimed before deadline that they hadn’t traded Harden. But sources said the coach has thus far acted as if he plans to be a part of Brooklyn’s impending future.

“I love doing it,” Nash told reporters after Game Four. “I love these guys. I love the team. I love all the divisions. [I] You have a really great work environment, I really enjoyed it. I want to keep doing that.”

The only safe assumption going into this season is that Brooklyn will look different in some important capacity. The Nets have a first-round pick and mid-tier taxpayers at their disposal and will need to address the shortcomings of their front zone. It seems unlikely that LaMarcus Aldridge or Blake Griffin will return with this unit, and Nic Claxton faces restricted free agency after Brooklyn gauged his business interest dating back to last June’s draft.

But the Nets’ North Star has been unchanged since July 2019. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, championship contention will be the only measure any Brooklyn season is satisfactory – especially if Simmons can return to his full strength.

Jake Fisher has covered the NBA for Bleacher Report since 2019 and is the author of Built to Lose: How the NBA Age of Tanks Changed the League Forever.